During the Vietnam War, Luyen Chi Pham helped American soldiers train South Vietnamese troops. After the war, he paid for his assistance by spending six years in jail and struggling to find work.
Pham came to the United States in 1996 under a special program for Vietnamese officers who aided Americans. He got a job, and he enjoyed life in his adopted country, his son said.
But after five years of perfect attendance at his job at Advanced Manufacturing Inc., Pham didn't show up for work for a few days. On Monday evening, St. Petersburg police went to his apartment at 800 Jackson St. N.
They found Pham, 63, slain, the victim of the city's 16th homicide of the year.
St. Petersburg police say he died of upper body trauma. Sgt. Mike Kovacsev said burglary may have been a motive.
There was evidence of a struggle in Pham's apartment, and police found his 1988 burgundy Honda Accord early Tuesday at Norwood Baptist Church at 1818 29th Ave. N.
The car had been stolen three times in June, and thieves apparently painted the car's hood and trunk lid white. Police are asking anyone who may have seen the car to call them. Kovacsev said the homicide and the earlier thefts of Pham's car may be connected.
"He was a nice guy," said Pham's son, Bien Long Pham, 33, speaking in Vietnamese. "He was concerned (about crime), but he figured that he didn't own anything that valuable."
Ron Vogt, manager of the small building that houses Pham's one-bedroom apartment and two others, described his tenant as a genial, shy man with a thick accent.
Pham had locks for just about every door in the apartment, but routinely misplaced his keys, Vogt said. But he left his windows open and never turned on air conditioning, Vogt said. Pham often crawled through open windows to get back in his apartment when he lost his keys, the manager said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.